CNET : E-Business : E-Commerce


By Julian Matthews
November 12, 1999

A quiet revolution is brewing on the Internet portal-playing landscape in Asia.

Even as Yahoo!, Microsoft's MSN and Lycos move in to colonize the masses, Asian players are taking counter-offensive measures.

The payoffs are obvious. Portals are proven big traffic generators, and Asia is the one of the fastest-growing Internet markets. Couple this with the potential to direct that traffic onto gold-lined e-commerce pathways and the war has just begun.

The battle cry seems to be: "Whatever Yahoo! can do, we can do better." In Malaysia, a new player has entered the fray while others have revamped and expanded their portal offerings.

For, getting on the global highway via the local trunk road seemed the logical thing to do. "We were frequent Net surfers and real frustrated we couldn't find any local content. A lot of these American portals were also not providing the depth we sought," said Patrick Grove, the 24-year-old CEO of

In Nike-borrowed bravado ("Just do it"), the former investment banker with Arthur Andersen banded with three other friends, cobbled a business plan together and parlayed to investors.

That landed them US$3.2 million worth of venture capital funds coming from venture capitalists and private investors in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. The company is now capitalized at RM76.5 million (US$20.1 million) and expects to close a third round of financing soon to enable it to strengthen its position as Southeast Asia's largest portal.

"The difference between us and American brands like Yahoo! is we are a local portal. Southeast Asia is not a secondary market for us, it's our primary market. And we're the target audience. Our management team is the perfect demographic group. We know what users want as we're all from the region," said Australian-Singaporean Grove.'s chief operating officer Nic Lim and chief technology officer John Wong are Malaysian, while chief marketing officer Ken Tsurumaru is Japanese.'s management team exemplify the young, restless entrepreneurs of the New Economy. They are each no older than 25, sustain Silicon Valley-type work rates of 15-hour days and very often crash out in the office.

The six-month-old portal has three country-specific sites in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and plans to expand to Thailand and the Philippines early next year, with Australia in the pipeline by mid next year.


Julian Matthews is the Malaysian correspondent for CNET Malaysia. Email us your comments.


Portalizing Asia

Young and restless

In the trenches

A wake-up call
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